Heat Transfer Vinyl | UK Guide | Choosing The Best HTV
We are often asked by people for advice on how to choose the right vinyl for their needs and there are many different factors to consider. Based on this, we’ve put together this guide to help anyone choose the right HTV, and to try to answer all the questions you may have on the different types available.
For reference, based on over 30 years of experience in supplying heat transfers and related equipment, we only sell Stahls’ Heat Transfer Vinyl and Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl due to their consistent quality and features. However, this guide will also give you general advice as to the features and related information to consider when buying HTV.
Table of Contents:
What Does HTV Stand For?
HTV stands for Heat Transfer Vinyl, and is also known as Heat Press Vinyl (HPV) or T-Shirt Vinyl, which is usually either a polyurethane (PU) or poly vinyl chloride (PVC) material. These come in standard, block colours, along with speciality (e.g. Glitter) and printable varieties, although Printable HTV tend to require a solvent or eco-solvent printer to print full-colour designs onto them.
Standard HTVs allow you to create a design, cut it on a plotter/cutter (such as a Silhouette Cameo or Cricut cutter for beginners and hobbyists, or a Graphtec, Summa or Roland plotter for larger companies), “weed away” the excess vinyl and heat-apply it onto a substrate, primarily fabrics such as t-shirts and other clothing.
Do You Need A Heat Press For Heat Transfer Vinyl?
Although a domestic iron or hobby press could be used, to ensure that the HTV is properly applied to the garment, a heat press is strongly advised. This not only saves time, but ensures that the Heat Transfer Vinyl is applied at the HTV manufacturer’s recommended temperature, pressure and time to make the design last as long as the garment. A commercial heat press can be calibrated to these requirements and maximise your efficiency, whereas you will not be able to perform anything accurately with a hobby press, such as a Cricut EasyPress, or a domestic iron.
Most Heat Transfer Vinyls and custom heat transfers are manufactured for use with commercial heat presses which are able to maintain a consistent temperature and even pressure which are both something that the Cricut EasyPress struggles to provide due to it being aimed at the hobby market and is rarely used for retail/commercial use. Based on this, if you’re looking to supply the finished goods for retail sale we’d strongly recommend looking at purchasing a commercial heat press to ensure that the heat transfer is properly bonded to the intended fabric.
If you’re considering purchasing a heat press, our UK Heat Press Machine guide and Cricut EasyPress vs Stahls Heat Press UK guide are worth reading to gain a better understanding of the differences and help you to determine the best heat press to fit your requirements.
In addition, the video below explains the advantages of using a heat press compared to an iron:
What Are The Different Types Of HTV?
There are many different finishes of Heat Transfer Vinyl, including the following:
- T-Shirt HTV: Block standard, pastel and fluorescent colours for standard fabrics.
- Stretch HTV: Block standard, pastel and fluorescent colours with extra stretchability.
- Subli-Dye Blocker HTV: Block standard colours with the ability to prevent dye migration from polyester-based fabrics.
- Silicone HTV: Block standard colours with the ability to prevent dye migration from polyester-based fabrics, along with a raised, silicone-based feel for an on-trend finish.
- Glitter HTV: Glitter flecks in particular colours that glitter and sparkle.
- Flock HTV: A velvet-like finish which is a popular alternative to standard HTV.
- Holographic HTV: Add a holographic-like sparkle to designs.
- Reflective HTV: Highly reflective and is EN471 European safety standard compliant.
- Foil HTV: Base adhesive for use with Heat Transfer Foils to create metallic-like effects.
There are also Printable Heat Transfer Vinyls available, although these require a solvent printer, such as the Roland VersaCAMM, Roland BN-20, Mimaki CJV, and a selection of Mutoh, Uniform Seiko and HP Printers
What Is The Best Heat Transfer Vinyl?
It’s often down to personal preference, but high-quality HTVs, such as the Stahls range of Heat Transfer Vinyl and Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl that we supply, are primarily produced using polyurethane (PU) to make them thin yet opaque, easy to weed, quick to apply and long-lasting.
Finding the best Heat Transfer Vinyl for your needs is often time-consuming when you first start out, particularly if you’re planning on producing retail-quality designs, so we’ve created this guide which will hopefully help you to find what you’re looking for. In general, the main elements for the perfect HTV are as follows:
- Quality: Some online retailers offer HTV bundles which can vary in quality, where as established brands tend to offer superior vinyls in specific colours by the metre, usually in 500mm wide rolls. Good vinyls tend to be much more durable and do not peel off easily, fade or crack, providing they’ve been washed according to the after-care instructions provided. They also tend to be much thinner, as they’re primarily made using PU (Polyurethane) rather than PVC which is cheaper to manufacture.
- Range of Colours: Most standard HTVs are produced in matt or semi-matt block colours, and the larger brands have a wider choice of colours available. For example, Sportsfilm Extra T-Shirt Vinyl comes in 40 different colours, including fluorescent and pastel finishes.
- Ease of Application: The process of heat-applying the vinyl to the fabric should be a quick and easy process. However, using a PVC-based HTV can often result in issues applying it. By comparison, PU-based HTV tends to be hot peel which makes it much quicker, and providing the adhesive is applied at the correct temperature it should easily last at least 50 washes.
- Speciality Features: If you’re looking for a unique finish, such as Flock HTV or Reflective HTV, again there are different grades available in the UK, but opting for a recognised brand (such as Stahls HTV) is a strong indication that the vinyl you purchase will be up to the job!
What’s The Difference Between Heat Transfer Vinyl & Self-Adhesive Vinyl?
Self-adhesive vinyl is a widely-used vinyl for making stickers for indoor and outdoor use on hard surfaces. Heat Transfer Vinyl is a speciality vinyl which is used for heat-applying onto different types of surfaces (mainly fabrics), with an iron or heat press.
Self-adhesive vinyl comes with a sticky adhesive on the underside, and is usually supplied on a paper backer. It’s often used with application tape to remove it from the paper backer and apply it by hand to the intended surface using only the sticky adhesive.
Heat Transfer Vinyl comes with the adhesive on the top of the vinyl itself (which isn’t sticky when touched), and comes on a clear or semi-clear plastic carrier which is peeled off once it has been heat-applied onto the intended surface which is usually fabrics. This is often done with a domestic iron but a heat press is strongly recommended to ensure that it’s properly bonded at the correct temperature, pressure and time if you intend to use it for commercial purposes.
Both types of vinyl require a plotter/cutter to cut the intended design, with the excess material “weeded away” (removed), but self-adhesive vinyl needs application mask if you want to keep different elements in the correct position. Heat transfer vinyl has a polyester-based, mylar carrier built into the product, so after its cut in reverse and weeded it’s ready to turn over and heat apply.
Which Type Of HTV Is Safest To Apply To Children’s Clothing?
Most individuals that print onto childrenswear tend to opt for HTVs which are PU (polyurethane) rather than PVC-based and are certified to ensure that they don’t contain any substances which are considered harmful to human health. Based on this, we’re happy to confirm that all of the HTVs below are PVC-free and are also certified as OEKO-TEX Standard 100 compliant:
For reference, for a standard finish Sportsfilm Extra is the easiest to work with compared to Premium Plus, and is much more popular.
What Type Of Vinyl Do You Use For T-Shirts?
Most people tend to opt for a thin, durable, PU-based HTV for printing onto t-shirts, hoodies and polo shirts, such as Sportsfilm Extra T-Shirt Vinyl or Premium Plus HTV Heat Transfer Vinyl which have both been tested to last at least 50 washes providing it’s been applied correctly with a heat press and washed according to the guidelines.
The video below shows the features of Premium Plus HTV Heat Transfer Vinyl:
Can You Print Designs Onto Heat Transfer Vinyl With A Printer?
HTVs are designed primarily for producing solid-colour designs, such as text and silhouettes. However, Printable HTVs are available for use with solvent and eco-solvent printers to produce full-colour images. In addition, our Glitter HTV in White is suitable for sublimation printing onto in order to produce a full-colour glitter image.
What Can Heat Transfer Vinyls Be Used On?
Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) is mainly designed for applying designs onto fabrics, such as t-shirts, using heat to bond them to it. Below are examples of the types of items that you can heat press HTV onto:
- Cotton, performance and tri-blend t-shirts.
- Cotton, poly-cotton and performance polo shirts.
- Hoodies and Sweatshirts.
- Leggings and tights.
- Hats and caps.
- Babies and children’s clothes.
- Cotton, nylon and jute/hessian bags.
- And much, much more!
As a general rule, if the surface is hard and smooth (such as walls, bottles, signs and mirrors), self-adhesive vinyl is the correct choice. However, if your surface is soft and can withstand heat (such as t-shirts, hoodies and bags), Heat Transfer Vinyl is the best choice. However, there’s no exception to this – When applying onto wood, Heat Transfer Vinyl often gives a better bond than self-adhesive vinyl providing it can be heat-applied onto.
How Do You Heat Transfer Vinyl?
The steps for creating and applying a design using Heat Transfer Vinyl onto a garment are as follows:
- CREATE THE ARTWORK: Create the design using vector graphic software (e.g. Silhouette Studio, CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator)
- CUT THE HTV VINYL: Cut the design IN REVERSE (as the adhesive is on the top!) on a plotter/cutter at the correct speed and pressure.
- WEED THE EXCESS: Pick away the HTV material around the cutlines, usually using a tool such as a Stahls EZ Weeder or Stahls LED Weeder, that you don’t want to print to leave just the design itself.
- HEAT APPLY: Turn the design over and apply the design (ideally with a heat press) according to the instructions provided.
A vinyl cutter/plotter is needed to cut designs using HTV – Most start-up companies and hobbyists opt for a small cutter (such as a Silhouette Portrait, Silhouette Cameo or Cricut cutter) and more established companies opt for a Graphtec, Summa or Roland cutter due to the improved accuracy, speed, size and reliability.
How Long Does Heat Transfer Vinyl Last?
In a nutshell, HTV lasts much longer than you think providing you buy the right one!
Over the 15+ years that we’ve supplied Heat Transfer Vinyls, we regularly meet customers that think that 10 to 20 washes would be the limit of HTVs when they’re applied to garments. However, we’re happy to confirm that many of the Stahls Heat Transfer Vinyls that we supply will outlast the garment, and have been tested to show that they’ll last for a minimum of 50 washes. This means that the garment should be ready for the bin before the design starts to degrade.
All of the Heat Transfer Vinyls listed below have been tested to meet the Stahls promise of 50 washes*:
- Standard HTVs:
- Sportsfilm Extra T-Shirt Vinyl (for cotton, polyester and poly-cotton)
- Premium Plus HTV Heat Transfer Vinyl (for cotton, polyester, poly-cotton, lycra, spandex and nylons)
- Premium Plus SubliStop Subli-Dye Blocking HTV (for heavily subli-dyed polyester, such as performance polyester)
- Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) (for cotton, polyester and poly-cotton)
*when applied with a heat press and washed at the lowest temperature recommended by either the garment or HTV.
As an additional tip, we always recommend washing garments with HTV printed onto them inside out, in order to protect them from damage from hard surfaces (e.g. buttons and zips) whilst being washed.
What Are Stahls Heat Transfer Vinyls?
Stahls is an international brand of Heat Transfer Vinyls and Printable Heat Transfer Vinyls, in addition to manufacturing heat presses, accessories and custom heat transfers. Their extensive range of HTVs are designed suit all of your transfer printing needs, whether they are for fashion, leisure, sports or workwear, including matt, gloss, glitter, flock and rubber-like finishes. Amongst the selection, you will find that you can apply to all types of fabrics and garments, including cotton, poly-cotton blends, Spandex/Lycra, polyester and even coated nylon.
Each individual HTV material has its own qualities, each one having something that makes it essential in our range of products. The heat transfer vinyl that you need will depend on the fabric that you are applying it to and the requirement of your job.
We stock a wide range of materials, some suitable for lots of garment types, such as our most popular HTV, Sportsfilm Extra T-Shirt Vinyl, which is thin and durable, semi-glossy polyurethane HTV vinyl/flex, which is ideal for cutting and weeding smaller to medium detail, and is great for sportswear, promotional wear and workwear alike. It also has incredible versatility, offering you an excellent finish on most garment types and the ability to cut fine detail, especially on smaller designs.
If you need a more stretchy HTV then Premium Plus Stretchable HTV Vinyl is a thin and durable, matt vinyl/flex which is perfect for sportswear, promotional wear and workwear alike. It’s also PVC and Phthalate-free which makes it more environmentally-friendly and more suitable for application onto kidswear.
More specialist ones like EconoReflex Reflective HTV is a high reflective HTV product, manufactured using glass micro-balls technology and is EN471 European safety standard compliant. It’s recommended for heat transfer applying onto workwear which require more than 100 lumen luminescence and is suitable for application onto both coated (waterproof) and uncoated fabric types.
Other materials, like the CAD-Cut Premium Plus Sublistop (Subli-Dye Blocker) HTV which is a robust, opaque and matt, polyurethane heat transfer vinyl/flex is specifically designed for application onto heavily-dyed, polyester-rich sportswear, promotional wear and workwear where sublimation dyes are likely to “bleed” through from the garment into the heat transfer. Alternatively, Silicone HTV Vinyl offers the same benefits with a stretchable, silicone-based finish for a more modern look and feel.
Or if you’re aiming at high-fashion or promotional use (e.g. stag and hen parties), you may wish to look at purchasing some speciality vinyls, such as Holographic HTV or Glitter HTV. You can choose from a wide selection of exciting fashion colours that can add sparkle and glitter to t-shirts, jeans, sweatshirts, hoodies, caps and much more. Very easy to cut and weed, perfectly suited for medium to large detail.
The video below shows what the Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl looks like:
It is usually possible to create a two (or even three) colour design using CAD-Cut materials, by cutting the individual colours and applying them separately onto the garment, particularly with vinyls such as Sportsfilm Extra T-Shirt Vinyl and Premium Plus Stretchable HTV Vinyl.
Any plotter should be able to cut Stahls HTVs, but smaller plotter/cutters, such as the Silhouette Cameo and Silhouette Portrait, struggle to cut some vinyls (e.g. Holographic HTV and Flock HTV) due to the limited blade angle and pressure achievable on the plotter.
Why Buy HTV From Badgers?
Based on over 30 years of supplying heat transfers, heat press and related equipment, including over 15 years of selling Heat Transfer Vinyls, we only sell Stahls’ Heat Transfer Vinyl and Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl due to their high quality and range features.
We also offer free DPD Next Working Day Delivery for orders placed before 3pm Monday to Friday over £100* (excluding VAT) on all HTVs and other stock items. We also offer free A4-sized samples of all of our Heat Transfer Vinyls for testing purposes and would be happy to send them out for you to test.
* Free delivery is for Mainland UK addresses, excluding Scottish Highlands. Full details of the costs can be found in our Delivery & Returns Policy.
Additional Questions Which We’re Commonly Asked
How Much Pressure And Cutting Speed Should I Use On HTV?
This will vary depending on the specific vinyl and you should follow the instructions provided by the supplier. It is also advised to do a test cut prior to commencing a job to ensure that you get the best results possible.
As a suggestion, we always recommend running the plotter slowly to ensure a precise cut (e.g. <100mm/s), particularly if the vinyl is below 100 microns in thickness, as lightweight vinyls which are cut at high speed can often result in an imperfect cut. If you’re using a Silhouette Cameo or Silhouette Portrait, using a carrier sheet to stabilise the materials also improves the quality of the cuts.
Regular maintenance, such as checking the sharpness of the blade and that that there aren’t indentations in the cutting strip, will also help to make sure that you achieve the best cuts and highest quality designs possible.
If I Already Have A Cutter And A Heat Press, Will It Work With Your Heat Transfer Vinyls?
In a word, YES! Some suppliers suggest that you must use their heat press or cutter for the vinyl to work. Any plotter should be able to cut our vinyls, but smaller plotter/cutters, such as the Silhouette Cameo and Silhouette Portrait, struggle to cut some vinyls (such as CAD-Cut Effect and Flock) due to the limited blade type and pressure achievable on the plotter.
How Durable Are Transfers Made From Garment Vinyls?
Most transfers produced today which are made from CAD-Cut flex/vinyl will outlast the life of the garment that it is bonded to, providing it is applied and washed in accordance with the instructions provided. HTV materials are very durable, but to ensure that there aren’t issues we recommend that they are ironed on the reverse and not over the top of the design, and to avoid using steam as this could affect the adhesive and the longevity of the design.
Do All HTV Material Brands Match In Colour?
No, they don’t – However, most of our standard garment vinyls use the same colours so that you can achieve consistency between different vinyls and fabric types.
We also sell the Stahls HTV Colour Card which contains printed samples of each colour/finish available in the main Stahls HTV products.
What Are The Differences In Different Brands of CAD-Cut Materials?
Remember that not all materials are created equally – There are some simple questions to ask to determine whether the brand is likely to be of good quality, such as;
- Is it easy to weed?
- Can you see the cut lines through the material?
- Can it be overlaid to produce multi-coloured designs?
- What is the smallest size lettering recommended to be cut from the material?
- How many washes can it withstand?
How Can I Achieve A Two-Colour Design Using HTV?
It is usually possible to create a two (or even three) colour design using Heat Transfer Vinyls, by cutting the individual colours providing they’re suitable for overlaying, such as Sportsfilm Extra and Premium Plus.
The advice would alter depending on the specific combination of the two HTVs (particularly if they’re different ones, e.g. Sportsfilm Extra & Glitter Flake), but as a general rule we’d usually recommend applying the first colour for 2-3 seconds to give it enough time to tack to the garment to be able to remove the backer. Assuming that it’s a two-colour design, the second HTV would be applied for the full time and peeled as normal.
If the two HTVs apply at different temperatures, the highest temperature and time would be recommended to ensure that they’re fully bonded. In addition, for the second colour, it’s advisable to ensure that the mylar carrier (plastic-like carrier) is larger than the first design to ensure that it doesn’t leave any pressure marks, and a non-stick cover sheet or release paper to cover everything is also recommended.
Finally, standard vinyls (e.g. Sportsfilm Extra, Premium Plus) are usually fine for over-laying, but Glitter Flake wouldn’t be due to the flakes in the HTV itself. However, this doesn’t mean that Glitter Flake couldn’t be applied over Sportsfilm Extra as it’s the top layer of the HTV which determines it’s suitability for over-laying.
HTV Guide Summary
We hope that our heat press guide has been an informative source of help in you choosing the right heat press for your business needs.
To keep up to date with other guides and additional information, please feel free to check out the Heat Transfer Help Guides and Blog section on our website. Topics include heat press machines, custom heat transfers, heat transfer vinyls, heat transfer papers and heat press accessories.
Please visit our Purchasing Information page for more details of where to purchase.